SANTA CLARA — Brandon Aiyuk stood at his locker following Saturday’s 41-23 drubbing of the Seattle Seahawks, in the middle of his Q&A with reporters, when he called Brock Purdy over.
“BP!,” the 49ers receiver yelled, getting the attention of his quarterback.
Purdy came over and they shared a little exchange. Despite putting up a season high in points, the two players knew they left some out on the field.
“I owe this man something,” Purdy said as they dapped it up.
“I owe you, bruh,” Aiyuk said.
With the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, the Niners were still seeing red. Facing a third-and-10 at the Seahawks 13-yard line, Purdy dropped back to pass as the play broke down in front of him. Not to fret, as Purdy wanted to show off his wheels. He dipped, dodged and ducked his way around defenders before rolling to his right and spotting Aiyuk in the back right corner of the end zone. Purdy delivered an absolute dart to the pylon but Aiyuk couldn’t pull it in. The Niners had to settle for another field goal.
Aiyuk beat himself up about it on the bench afterwards. He feels like the Niners easily could have dropped a 50-burger on the Seahawks Saturday.
“We probably shoulda had three more touchdowns that I can think of right now,” Aiyuk said. “I haven’t scored in the playoffs yet. I’m trying to take the basket off the rim. That was an opportunity. Shoutout to Brock right there on that one. It really hit me when I get to the sideline and I see on the jumbotron that Brock had three touchdowns. Really shoulda been four. We’re talking about his (playoff) debut.”
Purdy finished 18-of-30 with 332 yards, three passing touchdowns and no turnovers, while also rushing in for another score. Not bad considering the 49ers feel like their three first-half field goal drives could have ended in touchdowns.
Purdy said his slow first half and missed targets were more a result of a slippery, wet ball rather than the pressure of his first postseason contest. He went 9-of-19 for 147 yards and a touchdown in the first half, while going 9-for-11 for 185 yards and two more scores through the air after halftime.
“There was some emotion going into the game,” Purdy said. “You just feel it, the environment with the fans and my teammates. Like, ‘This is win or go home.’ You did feel that pregame. But once the game started it’s, ‘Hey, it’s 11-on-11. I just gotta do my job.’”
At every turn, at every chance to fail, the rookie quarterback has aced the test.
Taking over for Jimmy G against the Dolphins? Check. Beating Tom Brady in his first career start? Done. Clinching the NFC West at Seattle? Got it. A comeback against the Raiders and a solid game against the Cardinals closed down his regular season, but he stepped it up to another level Saturday.
Mr. Irrelevant recorded the first four-touchdown day of his career. For reference, Jimmy Garoppolo, the man he replaced, has never thrown for more than 232 yards or two touchdowns in a playoff game. As if we needed any more confirmation, the third-stringer Purdy has been a major upgrade these past seven weeks.
“He’s poised and he’s calm, but he’s extremely confident,” Christian McCaffrey said. “He’s exactly what you would want in a quarterback. No moment is too big for him.”
Perhaps the most unexpected part of Purdy’s development has been his escapeability. Once again, Purdy was able to sense pressure, evade would-be tacklers and extend plays with his legs. He showed off his mobility on the 49ers’ final touchdown, when he scrambled and found his final read, Elijah Mitchell, all alone for a check-down pass for a score.
“It’s great to see him doing the things he do back there,” Deebo Samuel said. “His little slitheriness of getting out of stuff – it kinda makes us a little tired – because we gotta run around too to get open. But it works. As long as Brock’s doing his thing, we’re gonna ride with him.”
Beyond Purdy, much of that recent success has to do with his playmakers like Samuel and McCaffrey. Deebo racked up a playoff career-high 133 receiving yards, 68 of them coming after the catch on his 74-yard touchdown. Aiyuk made it possible with a stellar downfield block that gave Deebo just enough daylight.
McCaffrey carried the ball 15 times for 119 yards (7.8 average), highlighted by his 68-yard scamper in the first quarter. He deservedly scored the touchdown to cap off the drive, as Purdy stepped up in a collapsing pocket to find his favorite safety valve.
Everywhere you look, the Niners have playmakers on offense. So long as Purdy can keep the play alive and not turn it over, there's a chance for some magic every snap.
Right now, the 49ers offense is at its highwater mark. The Niners are rising like reservoir levels with their 11-game win streak.
They’ve scored at least 37 points in four straight games, averaging 38.3 points per game in that span. It marks the highest-scoring four-week stretch for the 49ers since Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017. And they still want more.
“That’s football,” McCaffrey said. “That’s what makes it so fun, is that constant pursuit for perfection. I think everybody on our team has that.”
Couple this iteration of the offense with the league’s top-ranked defense? The Niners could just be getting started here in the postseason.